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Page last updated at 20:40 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Olympic sports hit by funding cut


British Handball funding blow

Eight Olympic sports have had London 2012 funding slashed because of a 50m budget shortfall.

The move will prompt fears Team GB may be unable to fulfil hopes of fielding a team in every sport in London.

Shooting's allocation has been slashed by 3.84m, forcing a move from 46 funded athletes to about 10.

Water polo has suffered a 50% cut to 1.45m, prompting bosses to warn that the men's team may be forced to pull out of contention for the 2012 Games.

"It's pretty bleak," said water polo performance director Nick Hume. "We think the absolute cheapest you could do it on would be about 2.5m.

"That would get two decent teams to London - on a real shoestring - but anything less than that and you would be really cobbling something together.

Our funding has been up and down like an elevator and that is no way to build for Olympic success

Steen Kyst Hansen
Table tennis performance manager

"We've got some tough decisions to make but we'll not rush into them, and we'll explore every possible avenue."

UK Sport has tried to minimise the impact of the cuts by announcing the sports will be allowed to have all the cash up front rather than split annually during the four-year cycle up to 2013.

It is also hopeful of securing some cash from the private sector.

UK Sport chair Sue Campbell said: "It was vital that, having successfully targeted our medal prospects, we also maximised the chances of every sport for London 2012 within our limited resources.

"The past few months have not been easy for anyone, and the decisions we have taken have been tough.

"But I firmly believe we have done the best we can to deliver for all sports whilst remaining true to our core responsibility of driving medal success."

Overall, 11.2m of public money remaining in the pot will be split between fencing, handball, shooting, table tennis, volleyball/beach volleyball, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling.

The sports are the casualties of a 50m funding shortfall brought about by the failure of a Government campaign to bring in a single penny from the private sector.

Four Paralympic sports - fencing, goalball, volleyball and wheelchair basketball (women) - will also be getting less than anticipated even if they are getting small increases compared to Beijing.

Understandably, Thursday's announcement has caused dismay amongst most of the sports that have been affected.

John Leighton-Dyson, performance director of British Shooting, claimed UK Sport had chopped a further 250,000 over and above their expected cut without any explanation.

"That is particularly galling," he said. "We have a track record of winning medals and sports that do not have been given significant funding increases while we suffer the biggest cut."

Handball, which has received 2.99m over the last three years, must make do with 1.448m over the next four, while table tennis has also seen a 50% cash cut.

"If that is how they think you run an elite sport programme then I really worry," said GB table tennis performance manager Steen Kyst Hansen.

"Our funding has been up and down like an elevator and that is no way to build for Olympic success.

"It's all terribly disappointing and we're going to have to have a long, hard think about what we do. But big boys don't cry even when the news is really, really bad."

British Handball will meet on Friday to discuss where they may have to make cuts to their programme.

"We are disappointed but it was the kind of figure we were expecting," said Chris Spice, chair of the performance management group for British Handball.

"We have been planning on about that amount of money but hoping that somewhere and somehow there would be some kind of windfall."

Richard Callicott, the president of British Volleyball, was equally downbeat.

"We have made great progress in both beach volleyball and volleyball and have hit all performance targets set for us," he said.

"We are wholly unable to understand UK Sport's thinking that, having heard and acknowledged the difficulties of delivering our uniquely complex sport, they should turn round and give us less money than they had originally planned to."

However, not everyone is openly critical of UK Sport.

Graham Watts, British Fencing performance director, said he remained optimistic his sport could shine in London.

We've had brilliant results lately and if we sustain that level it will in due course bring in more money - the decisions UK Sport are taking are not set in tablets of stone

Graham Watts
British Fencing performance director

"Our attitude is a bit more relaxed than other sports," he said. "We've had brilliant results lately and if we sustain that level it will in due course bring in more money - the decisions UK Sport are taking are not set in tablets of stone.

"There will be reviews, I think, on a quarterly basis and a major one in 2010. We've had talks with UK Sport and I believe we will have enough to support fencers with a genuine medal chance.

"We were funding about 36 athletes and our plan is to gradually reduce that to 16. We won't have more than 12 competing at the London Games - that's pretty much the maximum for us - and we're very confident of getting them there."

UK Sport has secured an additional 1.8m from Sports Aid's talented athlete scholarship scheme which could be used to fund promising athletes from these 12 sports.

The body also says it is making progress on securing some long-term funding from the private sector.

Andy Burnham, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, insisted private funding would become available.

"There is an unprecedented level of public investment - more than 300m - going into the London cycle, and this will be supplemented by a new private sector funding stream which will be a permanent legacy of the Games," he said.

"We are entering a new phase of this work, in partnership with UK Sport, Locog, the British Olympic Association [BOA], the British Paralympic Association [BPA] and Fast Track, and hope to finalise proposals shortly. We encourage businesses to support our athletes as they prepare for medal success."

Reacting to the news of the cuts, BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said: "The BOA is disappointed that eight of the Olympic sports cannot be fully funded through to the London 2012 Olympic Games at this time.

"However, the BOA is working together with UK Sport, Locog, BPA and DCMS to find a solution to the problem."

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see also
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28 Jan 09 |  Olympics
Sports handed London 2012 budgets
03 Dec 08 |  Olympics
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09 Jun 08 |  Swimming
Brown reveals 2012 funding boost
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